Gamification: Challenge Accepted!

Today at ITU, the lectures was about “Gamification” got an interesting challenge, which can – in short – be described as short as in 7 words, as follows:

Gamify a part of ITU in 20 minutes.

Me and 3 others was quite convinced that this had to be useful, as the point of gamificating something, would be to add gaming elements to something that is not usually perceived as a game, with the point of making it more fun for the users and thus increasing productivity. With that in mind, the idea formed… and I will describe the essence of it, with my own bias added.

The Immediate Idea:
Our goal was to have something that directly helped to improve the actual education at ITU, so the idea turned out to be that every student had a virtual avatar, representing their selves in the education/work-part of life. You’d start out with an avatar, that starts out with nothing. The thought of having an avatar fits really well with the actual meaning of the word, which should become evident throughout the description. The goal is to build up “points”, based on a system more-or-less similar to the Like-system on Facebook. Try not to hate the idea based on that just yet, I’ll get into detail afterwards.

  • Live Feedback of the Lecturer – Rather than clumping it all up during a one-time feedback session, have it happening live, so that the lecturer can get a better feeling of what went wrong, and get it corrected as fast as possible. The feedback would get time-stamped, so that it’s easy for the lecturer to figure out exactly where a given thing went wrong. It will also not be possible to give any “live feedback” after the lecture has ended.
  • Discussing Lectured Content – After a lecture is over, students can start discussions regarding the subjects described. You even get credit for providing your thoughts in the “agree or disagree” way through the voting.

Now, the twist here, is that the lecturer is able to decide how significant a specific discussion is. This works as a multiplier on said discussion-thread, so that the amount of points given to a student is based on his participation in the discussion, combined with how relevant it is. The lecturer will also be able to mark discussions (or single replies) as irrelevant or spam, so that they wouldn’t count. On top of that, making your thoughts known by voting also counts.

Why a system like that? Simple. We all know that talking with people about subjects makes your understanding better. Most often though, you don’t even realize it – but it does gets a better hold inside your head. On top of that, the system of examinations can often mean that if you’re caught in a bad subject or on a bad day, all of your grade is ruined – which sucks.

Same thing applies to the feedback of the lecturer. There should naturally still be the normal feedback session of the course and lecturer in general, but this new part opens up for a whole new level of improving the education, both for the lecturer and the students.

Attending Lectures
This is where my personal opinion diverged from our presented idea, as the result we ended out with had everything take place entirely online (meaning, there would be nothing to physically attend). Disregarding normal issues like transportation back and forth, delays, illness and other stuff that could make you miss out, I feel that lectures is the backbone of every course. However, with this system in mind it shouldn’t be necessary to attend in order to pass. So, for that, I propose the following for those who cannot or do not want to attend the actual lectures:

  • View Recorded Lecture – The lectures are always recorded, and will be available to see online for a limited amount of time. Naturally, slides will be available at all times, and not be affected by this. I don’t want to punish people who cannot attend, but there should be a benefit to attending.
  • No Live Feedback – If the feedback comes too late, it’s not really of any use – which was the point of it from the start. Old-fashioned feedback is still an option, naturally.

Real-Life vs. Work/Education:
This was also one of the things we wished was very written in stone, very simply because of this: Social life shouldn’t have any direct impact on your education/work efforts. There is the whole Work/Life-balance thing, naturally, but the way this is to be perceived is simply to have them separated. By that, I mean that no matter what you do in your life outside your education, it should not affect your points gained by this system (naturally, if you don’t use the system and do something else instead, that’s something entirely different), nor should you be able to gain anything in your outside life from the points (except, of course, a good education).

The main reason here, is that we really did not want the system to be “grindable” or have any type of “pay to win”-features. The only way to raise points is to take active part in the studies. Simple.

Wait… What About The Points?
Ah yes, I did not forget about those, but they do deserve a section of themselves, as they serve quite an important role, as this is what it all builds up to. After all, if there’s no reason to get the points in the first place, why play along? You can use your points for things like this:

  • Making up for Things – This is the major one, and the whole thought of the system. By using some of your points, you will be able to make up for a bad mid-term, a missed hand-in or something else – to a certain threshold, of course. As written earlier, this is to work against those “bad days” that eventually happens for all of us, so that your total grade isn’t completely crushed by it.
  • Virtual Avatar Bling – Change how your avatar looks. Simple – and yet, not so much. We all know appearance has quite an impact in the modern world, so this is one way of spending your points. Do you want it to matter, or simply ignore it?
  • Prestige – As a true game, you’d want to show off just how many points you have, which is visible to others, at any given moment. Not only does it gives visibility, but it gives you a stronger authority in discussions – and it could possibly even affect the “discussion multiplier” of others taking part in discussions you’re already taking part of. Note, there’s no spending of points associated with this one – it’s purely determined by how many points you have.

Everything should naturally be restricted to being course-specific, so that points doesn’t carry over, and makes a hard course a walk-in-the-park because you did exceptionally well in another course. Obviously, you’d still be able to show off how well you did, as it would all be linked to a “super-profile”, that has all the information. Your educational Curriculum Vitae, basically.

On top of all that, you’ll be granted a nice subscript at the end of your education, stating detailed earnings (and spendings) of points, and a nice picture of your avatar to show for the front page.

Closing Words
Sure, in the end, the system is probably still faulty, but I thought it was an interesting exercise in terms of the spirit of gamification. On top of that, I think the idea caught the essence of adding a compelling incentive for your studies, but I really still think that some of the original charm needs to be there – and that you can choose to ignore the system completely, and still get through. After all, we don’t just study to … study. We study because it’s meant to be genuinely interesting and pointing us towards where we want to end up being in life.

In case it isn’t – then a wrong choice was made at some point, knowingly or not.


  1. I actually left out a rather major part, by not making it obvious that lecturers (or course administrators, etc.) could always make posts outside of lecture-times to give informations with, say, examination times. Simple reason being to open up for course evaluation at any given time – just as evaluation lectures should happen when things are happening, so should evaluating the course.


Leave a Reply